Briefing Paper

Briefing Paper 194 (2016)   

Sticking to the Rules:
The United States View on Strengthening the OSCE

Published 27.4.2016

Michael Haltzel
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

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The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which last year celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, is often asserted to be in a crisis. This is due to Russia’s revisionist foreign policy which violates the core principles of the OSCE. Russia wants to radically re-shape the organisation’s values, priorities, and modus operandi.

The United States is worried by Moscow’s apparent push to end the autonomy of key OSCE institutions like ODIHR, the Representative for Freedom of the Media (RFM), or the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM).

While the US remains ready to engage with Russia, Washington wants to base this engagement purely on the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and OSCE acquis.

Despite its frustration with Russia’s policies, the US will likely pursue even more intensive engagement in the OSCE, not less. That would involve putting "big issues” – such as the refugee crisis, energy security, or counter-terrorism – on the table, in the hopes that a breakthrough on any of these issues would lead to agreement on structural OSCE issues such as a legal personality and long-term budget.


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